Senator John DiSanto E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • DiSanto Appointed Chairman of Senate State Government Committee
  • DiSanto Helps Celebrate School Choice Week in PA
  • Human Trafficking Bill set for Enactment
  • Other Bills Receiving Final Approval
  • Senate Acts to Assist Fire, EMS Companies
  • Bill Increasing Penalties for Repeat DUI Drivers Approved by Senate
  • Senate Approves Fair Access to Cancer Treatment Act, Improved Breast Cancer Screening Coverage
  • Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House
  • Lieutenant Governor Selection Process Reform Advances
  • Senator Dave Arnold Sworn into Office
  • Committee Roundup
  • Next Week 

This week I visited with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Capital Region on the Senate floor to discuss the legislative process and working with my colleagues in the General Assembly.


DiSanto Appointed Chairman of Senate State Government Committee

It was an honor this week to be appointed Chairman of the Senate State Government Committee by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati.

The State Government Committee has broad oversight jurisdiction over the executive branch, including the Office of the Governor, Departments of State and General Services, as well as the Civil Service and State Ethics Commissions. The committee also oversees the administration of the Lobbying Disclosure Law and Office of Open Records.

As a private sector businessman turned citizen legislator, I have made government reform a top priority in my first term in office: turning down the taxpayer-funded pension, refusing the automatic cost-of-living increase given to legislators, and supporting legislation to ban cash gifts and per diems for lawmakers. As Chairman of the State Government Committee, I will pursue opportunities to make government more efficient, accessible and transparent. (FYI, I employ the fewest staff of any state senator.)

As the senator representing the capital region with many state employees and private contractors as constituents, I will also work to ensure state government is acting as a fair employer and purchaser that makes decisions based on their merits. The citizens and taxpayers of Pennsylvania expect no less from their government institutions.

DiSanto Helps Celebrate School Choice Week in PA

1/27/20 – School Choice Week

It was an honor to join students and education advocates Monday to celebrate National School Choice Week.  It was one of nearly 3,000 events by Pennsylvanians statewide.

School choice means supporting students in traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies and homeschooling, based on a family’s decision about what is best for their children. 

Human Trafficking Bill set for Enactment

The Senate gave final approval on Monday to a measure setting significant penalties for the solicitation or advertisement of the sexual services of victims of human trafficking. Senate Bill 60 now goes to the Governor’s desk. The bill, commonly called the “Buyer Beware Act,” builds on recent efforts by the General Assembly to curb human trafficking.

The measure imposes a first-degree felony charge on those who recruit, harbor, entice, transport, or advertise human trafficking victims for sexual servitude. The bill also significantly increases monetary penalties on those who patronize a victim of human trafficking.

Other Bills Receiving Final Approval 

Senate Bill 690 increases the public bidding threshold requirement from $1,500 to $6,000 for Incorporated Towns.

Senate Bill 691 increases the public bidding threshold requirement from $1,500 to $6,000 for Second Class Townships.

Senate Bill 692 increases the public bidding threshold from $1,500 to $6,000 for Boroughs and Third Class Cities.

Senate Bill 906 institutes a moratorium on the closing of the Polk and White Haven State Centers.

Senate Acts to Assist Fire, EMS Companies

The Senate approved two bills on Tuesday that would help fire and EMS companies deal with funding challenges and retention of members. Pennsylvania has nearly 2,450 fire companies – including about 2,350 volunteer departments, more than any other state.

Senate Bill 908 would create a voter referendum to expand the Volunteer Fire Company, Ambulance Service and Rescue Squad Assistance Program to include paid fire and EMS companies. The bill would also increase the maximum loan amounts allowed by the program, expand the allowable list of uses of Fire Relief Funding and review the current funding formula.  It would also move the administration of the Fire Relief Program from the Auditor General to the State Fire Commissioner.

Senate Bill 910  would extend the life of the Fire Company and Emergency Medical Service Grant Program to June 2024. The program, which was created in 2003, is currently set to expire in June of this year. The bill would also expand the use of the program to include recruitment and retention programs, as well as volunteer fire length of service awards.

Bill Increasing Penalties for Repeat DUI Drivers Approved by Senate

The Senate approved legislation on Tuesday that substantially increases the legal penalties imposed on repeat DUI offenders.

Senate Bill 773 — known as Deana’s Law in memory of Deana Eckman, a Delaware County woman who was killed by a drunk driver who had five previous DUI convictions — would increase jail time for those convicted of three or more DUIs and doubles the required period for anti-DUI interlock devices on any vehicle operated by a person with three or more DUI convictions. Offenders arrested for a third or subsequent DUI would also be required to wear continuous alcohol monitoring devices.

Senate Bill 773 is now before the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Approves Fair Access to Cancer Treatment Act, Improved Breast Cancer Screening Coverage

The Senate approved two measures Wednesday to help cancer patients access potentially lifesaving drugs and require insurers to cover supplemental screenings for women at high risk for breast cancer.

Under House Bill 427, the Fair Access to Cancer Treatment Act, health insurance policies that cover treatments for stage four metastatic cancers will not be able to limit or exclude innovative drugs for those patients if the drugs have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this use and are consistent with best practices. Patients no longer will have to first demonstrate that they failed to respond to a different drug or drugs before they are provided coverage.

Senate Bill 595 would amend the state Insurance Company Law to extend mandated insurance coverage to ultrasound screening and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) if a mammogram demonstrates extremely dense breast tissue.

Both cancer and density appear white on a mammogram, so detecting tumors is much more difficult in denser breasts without further screening provided by an ultrasound or an MRI. Women who have extremely dense breast tissue are four to six times more likely to develop breast cancer. Currently, insurance companies do not cover these extra screening costs for women who are at an increased risk.

Additionally, insurance coverage will also be extended if a woman is believed to be at increased risk for breast cancer due to family history or prior personal history of breast cancer, positive genetic testing or other indications.

Other Bills Approved by the Senate and Sent to the House

Senate Bill 30 creates a state housing tax credit.

Senate Bill 491 provides for the appointment of two Certified Pennsylvania Evaluators by the Governor to serve on the State Board of Certified Real Estate Appraisers. I voted against this measure.

Senate Bill 779 moves Pennsylvania’s Presidential primary election day to the third Tuesday of March.

Lieutenant Governor Selection Process Reform Advances

Legislation amending the Pennsylvania State Constitution to change how the lieutenant governor is selected received final approval this week. Senate Bill 133 would let gubernatorial candidates select their running mates after the primary election – a process that mirrors how presidential candidates currently select their vice presidential running mates. Currently, lieutenant governor candidates run in the primary independently of the gubernatorial candidates.

Since constitutional amendments must be approved during two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly, the exact language of Senate Bill 133 must be ratified again by both chambers during the 2021-22 Legislative Session before it can go on the ballot as a referendum for voter approval.

Senator Dave Arnold Sworn into Office

Senator Dave Arnold was sworn into office on Wednesday. He was elected to represent the 48th Senatorial District in a January 14 special election. The 48th District includes all of Lebanon County, as well as northern York County and southern Dauphin County. Prior to running for the Senate, Senator Arnold served 14 years as the Lebanon County District Attorney. 

Committee Roundup

Bills approved in committees. 

Appropriations

Senate Bill 30 creates a state housing tax credit.

Senate Bill 309 creates First-time Homebuyers Savings Accounts.

Senate Bill 462 repeals outdated School Code provisions.

Senate Bill 494 authorizes political subdivisions and authorities to enter into contracts for services when two consecutive advertisements fail to induce bids.

Senate Bill 640 authorizes the Commonwealth to join the interstate Physical Therapist Compact.

Senate Bill 798 removes a loophole relating to dangerous dogs from the Dog Law.

Senate Bill 908 creates a voter referendum to expand the Volunteer Fire Company, Ambulance Service and Rescue Squad Assistance Program to include paid fire and EMS companies. The bill would also increase the maximum loan amounts allowed by the program.

Senate Bill 910 reauthorizes the Fire & EMS Grant Program until June 30, 2024.

House Bill 1578 amends Title 68 (Real and Personal Property) to make technical changes and clarifications.

House Bill 64 authorizes state professional and occupational licensing boards to allow carryover of excess continuing education credits.

Senate Bill 417 requires successful write-in candidates receive at least the same number of write-in votes as would be required if they had filed nomination petitions.

Senate Bill 679 directs the Environmental Quality Board to develop regulations that authorize counties to adopt a program for stream cleaning and maintenance and the removal of obstructions and flood-related hazards from local waterways.

Senate Bill 773 increases penalties for those who have multiple DUI convictions.

House Bill 775 requires the Department of Aging to review the PACE and PACENET programs to remove deceased enrollees.

Senate Bill 779 moves Pennsylvania’s Presidential primary election day to the third Tuesday of March.

Senate Bill 997 clarifies military service credit for retirement purposes for Pennsylvania State Police members.

House Bill 1001 establishes standards for the licensure and regulation of (human) milk banks.

House Bill 1100 establishes the Energy and Fertilizer Manufacturing Tax Credit program. 

Environmental Resources & Energy 

Joint public hearing with the Senate Transportation Committee on the environmental and economic impacts of Pennsylvania’s participation in the 12-state Transportation Climate Initiative. Video & Written Testimony 

Finance

Senate Bill 997 clarifies military service credit for retirement purposes for Pennsylvania State Police members.

Judiciary

Senate Bill 968 consolidates the Department of Corrections with the Board of Probation and Parole and transfers the supervision of offenders and certain administrative functions from the board to the department and preserving parole decision–making responsibilities within the board.

Senate Bill 969 amends the Crime Victims Act to make technical changes related to the consolidation of the Department of Corrections and the Board of Probation and Parole.

Senate Bill 976 adds Veterans Courts to the list of problem-solving courts that may be established by a court of common pleas and by the Municipal Court of Philadelphia.

Labor & Industry

Public hearing on Senate Bill 580, establishing the Pennsylvania Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program. Video & Written Testimony

Law & Justice

Public hearing on the PA Liquor Control Board 2018-19 Annual Report. Video

Majority Policy

Public hearing to discuss implementation of election modernization initiatives passed in 2019. Agenda & Video

Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness

Senate Bill 932 expands the allowable uses for volunteer firefighter relief associations regarding state funding and would allow organizations with paid and volunteer firefighters to use that funding.

Senate Bill 987 restructures and enhances the Office of State Fire Commissioner. The measure would require Senate Confirmation of the Fire Commissioner, designates the Office of Fire Commissioner as the lead agency for fire services in the Commonwealth, and establishes a State Fire Advisory Board.

Senate Bill 996 exempts individuals driving Emergency Medical Service (EMS) vehicles, such as ambulances, from the requirement to hold EMS certification.

Next Week

The Senate returns to voting session on Monday at 1 p.m., and on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. the governor gives his budget address to a joint session of the legislature. You can watch session and the address live at SenatorDiSanto.com.

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